EBINA, KANAGAWA PREF. – The more they play together, the more effective they will become.
And when they’re at their best, Jordan Henriquez-Roberts and Carl Hall already form a dynamic one-two punch for the Yokohama B-Corsairs.
Call them Yokohama’s own Twin Towers: the 214-cm Henriquez-Roberts, who’s in his first year in the bj-league, and the 201-cm Hall, a returning star who was a key part of last season’s club before returning a few weeks after this season commenced, forming an imposing skyline in the low post that can only elevate their team in all facets of the game.
In Saturday’s series opener, they set the tone and brought their A-game for the B-Corsairs in a 104-87 win over the Aomori Wat’s at Ebina Sports Park Gymnasium.
For Yokohama coach Taketo Aoki, the victory also marked the first time his team topped the century mark in points this season.
Yokohama (8-7) is working to rise above its run-of-the-mill status in the 12-team Eastern Conference and break from form, e.g. a stretch of play in its last four games with this sequence of results: loss, win, loss, win. (And before that, the B-Corsairs had two wins, two losses and two wins in succession.)
“It was a wonderful team win,” Aoki said before praising his players’ adjustments after timeouts and their defensive intensity. “It was a really good game.”
“As a team, we put together the effort tonight,” Hall said after his 28-point, 10-rebound performance in which he received the game MVP accolade issued by the team. Hall, who came off the bench, was nearly unstoppable in the post and the Wichita State alum was fed the ball repeatedly and didn’t disappoint the home fans, making 14 of 16 shots. He also swatted three shots, extending his long arms to contest shot after shot.
Said Henriquez-Roberts: “We’ve got another one (the rematch) tomorrow, so we’ve got to take care of home court.”
Henriquez-Roberts added 19 points on 9-for-12 shooting, grabbed a game-best 17 rebounds and blocked five shots.
Between them, the big men had eight of Yokohama’s nine blocks. (Aomori finished with zero.)
“We trust their blocking skills,” Aoki told reporters. “We trust their blocking ability.”
He added that this skill set gives the defense an important backbone, so that other players stay in position and don’t overcommit.
Henriquez-Roberts summed up the impact that he and Hall made by saying, “We really jelled well tonight.”
Yokohama shot 36 of 53 from inside the arc (67.9 percent) and dished out 26 assists, including Kenji Yamada’s seven and Masayuki Kabaya’s six.
“We moved the ball well tonight,” said Henriquez-Roberts, crediting veteran guards Yamada and Kabaya for their excursions into the lane and dribble-drive penetration. He added that the effective passing paved the way for the team’s inside dominance.
Yamada finished with 16 points, Cory Johnson poured in 15 and Kabaya had 13.
For Aomori (6-7), Murry had a team-high 24 points and Jesse Perry scored 18. Paul Williams added 16 and Daichi Shimoyama poured in 13. The Wat’s were held to 19 of 38 from 2-point range, or 38 less points from that area than their counterparts.
Wat’s coach Nobunaga Sato, in his first season at the helm, said his team’s overall defense didn’t have a strong game, citing the powerful performances of Hall and Henriquez-Roberts. He also singled out his team’s rebounding (Yokohama had a 46-29 edge) as a factor in the one-sided defeat.
He said Yokohama took control of the game in the third quarter.
“We weren’t strong today,” Sato told reporters.
The hosts were in complete control for large stretches of the fourth quarter, too, and led 91-71 during a break in the action with 4:36 to play. And all that remained was the final buzzer.
Yokohama opened the third quarter on a 10-3 run, prompting Sato to call a timeout with 7:02 to play in the period and his team trailing 51-41.
Moments later, Murry began a one-man scoring binge as he carried his team. He scored Aomori’s next 12 points. The MVP of last season’s Final Four initiated the spurt with a stop-and-pop jumper in the lane, followed by two free throws, a 3-pointer, two more free throws and another 3 from the identical location, his sweet spot on the left wing. His first 3-pointer of the half pulled the Wat’s within 53-48, and his second also kept his club within five points. But after that it was mostly downhill for the visitors.
While Murry was heating up, his team was getting burned on the inside — Yokohama shot 11-for-13 from inside the arc during the 10- minute quarter — and the B-Corsairs steadily increased their lead throughout the period. The hosts closed out the third on a 16-2 run.
And to put an exclamation point on the third stanza, Henriquez-Roberts had a buzzer-beating tip-in to give his team a commanding 74-55 lead entering the fourth quarter. Indeed, Yokohama excelled inside, getting a huge quarter from Hall and Henriquez-Roberts; they combined for 16 third-quarter points on 8 of 9 shooting and had 39 of the team’s 74 at that point. Small forward Ryuichi Horikawa also capitalized on the defensive attention paid to the two stalwart frontcourt players, contributing seven points in the period.
In an entertaining, back-and-forth opening half, both teams had long strong stretches of play, followed by cold spells.
Yokohama opened the game on a 7-0 run, with Johnson scoring inside, Henriquez-Roberts converting a hook shot and Kabaya burying a 3-pointer.
But then quickly, the tide turned Aomori’s way, Murry sparking the Aomori turnaround with an off-balance layup for his team’s first deuce. Seconds later, Yuki Kitamuki followed with another layup, and the visitors seized control during a 15-3 spurt that consumed most of the first quarter and put the Wat’s in front 15-10.
Aomori capitalized on its six first-quarter steals, getting quick baskets in transition and from long range.
Yokohama, meanwhile, lit up the scoreboard toward the end of the quarter and closed the gap to 21-20 in the closing seconds of the period.
The second quarter followed much of the same pattern. Shimoyama canned a pair of 3s early in the quarter. His second 3-pointer gave the visitors a 29-22 edge, then he followed with a scoop shot, slicing through the lane to make it a nine-point lead.
But Yokohama regained its aggressive edge on offense. Yamada made a nifty spin in traffic and banked in a layup, and Hall converted an inside shot of his own as the B-Corsairs pulled within 31-28.
What’s more, the hosts found their timing on defense, getting three first-half blocks from Henriquez-Roberts and two from Hall.
Hall had 10 of his 14 points in the second quarter to lead all players before the break.
The Wat’s trailed 41-38 at halftime.
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